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Whaley House Museum

Museums, Galleries and Archives (Local and County Historical Societies, Museums, and Archives)


The Whaley House Museum is comprised of several buildings, but the main one, the Whaley House, is the focal point. It is the oldest brick structure in San Diego, with authentic period furnishings from the mid to late 1800s. The home was built in 1856 by Thomas Whaley in the Greek Revival style. Whaley, who was a successful entrepreneur, established the first brickyard in San Diego for its construction. The home has an extensive biography, having been the site of a granary, the county courthouse, the earliest commercial theatre in San Diego, a ballroom, a billiard hall, a school, and the location of many other businesses. It has been described by many as the most haunted house in America. A number of strange sounds have been heard by visitors, as well as unusual sightings. Today, it is managed by the Save Our Heritage Organization, which formed in 2000. The museum opened to visitors in 1960 and receives over 100,000 visitors per year, many of whom come from abroad.

Constructed in 1885, the Whaley House is San Diego's oldest brick building.


Thomas Whaley was born in New York City in 1823 to Scott-Irish parents. His grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War and allowed George Washington to use his Long-Island house; he also participated in the Boston Tea Party. Whaley moved to California in 1849, which took him just over 200 days. He followed countless others who moved there during the Gold Rush.

His family owned a successful hardware and woodworking business in New York City. When he arrived in California, he set up a store attached to his house where he sold his family's products. He too was very successful and later in life got into real estate. The house remained in the family until 1953 when his daughter, Lillian, passed away. SOHO obtained the house in 2000. The museum is undergoing a major restoration project which is to be completed in about ten years.

The Whaley House is also renowned for the alleged hauntings that have been reported at the site, many of which have been presented by the Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted and many other TV shows and books. One figure believed to haunt the house is that of James “Yankee Jim” Robinson, who had been hanged at the same site before the Whaley House was built. Robinson had been convicted of attempting grand larceny in San Diego in 1852. Thomas Waley was aware of this when he bought the property a few years later, and as soon as the Whaleys moved into their home they began to hear heavy footsteps on the floorboards and would witness windows unlocking and opening themselves – all of which was believed to have been caused by Robinson’s spirit.  Other sightings within the house and courtyard include the ghosts of Thomas and Anna Whaley, who had taken the suicide of their daughter, Violet, in 1885 particularly badly. Even animals are believed to haunt the home – there have been a number of sightings of the Whaley’s fox terrier, Dolly Varden, running through the dining room. Ghost hunting tours are organized by the Whaley House Museum each month, and are especially popular around Halloween.


"Family History." Whaley House Museum. Accessed May 29, 2015.

"History & Restoration." Whaley House Museum. Accessed May 29, 2015.

“Haunted Folklore.” Whaley House Museum. Accessed August 2016. 

2476 San Diego Avenue
San Diego, CA 92110
Phone Number
(619) 297-7511
Monday & Tuesday 10am-5pm Wednesday Closed Thursday - Sunday 10am-10pm
  • Business and Economic Development
  • Historic Homes
This location was created on 2014-05-07 by Gerald Weinstein .   It was last updated on 2018-05-18 by Ben M. .

This entry has been viewed 1346 times within the past year


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